Wines to toast a new Master with

Tuesday, September 14, 2010; 3:48 PM

To mark Kathryn Morgan's achievement in becoming the first master sommelier in the area's restaurant community, we asked several of her colleagues to recommend a special wine from their current lists.

"To become a master sommelier, you have to be more than a wee bit of a wine geek and wine lover," said Andrew Myers, sommelier at CityZen. He ought to know: Myers has also passed his advanced certification and is working toward the MS diploma in his own right. "While I could go for the old Stump the Master gag, I'd rather toast Kathy in style with a properly aged Bordeaux, such as the 1989 Chateau Palmer from Margaux. It has that wonderful Bordeaux ability to be at once tannic and mouthwatering, complex and positively quaffable. And I can't believe I just called an '89 Palmer 'quaffable'!"

Myers wasn't the only one thinking of aged cabernet sauvignon. Nadine Brown, sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill, chose a 1974 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon.

"Kathy has that quality all successful people have: hard work and the determination to stick to her task and stay committed," Brown said. "This wine was made during California's renaissance period, when wines were able to speak of the earth better than they can today. Like Kathy, this wine shows that if you are a consummate professional, with integrity and perseverance anything is possible."

And, of course, a special occasion calls for champagne. William Douilletworked with Morgan for two years at 2941 in Falls Church and fondly recalls that on his last night there she presented him with a bottle of Krug champagne. Now a sommelier at Alinea in Chicago, Douillet said he would toast Morgan with a bottle of Jacques Selosse Substance, "decanted and left on the table."

"She taught me that a great champagnes should be treated like a great white Burgundy, a philosophy I still practice today at Alinea," he said.

Not everyone went highbrow. Mark Slater, Morgan's predecessor at Citronelle who now helms the wine program for the Ray's: The Steaks restaurant group, chose Frederic Mabileau's 2009 Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil "Les Rouillieres," a vibrant young cabernet franc from the Loire Valley. He described it as "a medium-bodied wine with class and balance that shows all the praise and promise that has been written about this vintage in France." And Sebastian Zutant of Proof and Estadio chose the Movia 2007 Ribolla from Slovenia, opting to cater to the wine lover's fascination with unusual wines. "This is a real treat for anyone who likes unique, funky wines," he said.

Some occasions call for wines that are simply transporting. Michael Scaffidi, sommelier at Plume in the Jefferson Hotel and also an MS candidate, chose the 1976 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja, a cult Spanish red that has a dedicated following among sommeliers and wine lovers. "Each time I taste this, time stands still and all I can think about is how much I love wine," he said. "It was a journey of hard work, stress, sweat, blood and time lost for Kathy to pass that exam. It is important that she have a wine to help her abandon worry - perhaps with a tequila chaser."

- Dave McIntyre

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